Dying with Digital Assets
There are a couple of buzz words being batted around now about how we could lead our lives: “hygge” made an appearance last year and Pinterest was full of images of cosy blankets and snuggly socks. Now, you might be into “decluttering” and “minimalism” – clearing out your extra stuff in an effort to lead a calmer life. Even if you like an extra vase or two, you are probably no longer receiving paper bank statements or utility bills. Your calendar might be on your smart ‘phone, not your wall, and your music and films all on Spotify and Netflix with DVDs and CDs no longer lining your shelves.
Many of us organise our lives on-line now and, when you add them up, you probably also have quite a few “digital” assets. If you can’t remember your many passwords, how are family and friends going to deal with your on-line accounts after your death or if you are incapacitated?
Here are some useful tips for you to consider:
1. Get organised! If you only have on-line bank statements, there won’t be the paper trail that people used to rely on to find out what assets a person had after their death. Draw up a list of all on-line accounts and digital assets that you have and make a note of logins for these, as well as for all your digital devices (tablets, laptops, Smart ‘phones etc). This might be one list that you do keep as a hard-copy document (yes, paper!) or find secure on-line storage for it. Use your Smart ‘phone to diarise calendar reminders to ensure that you update the list every few months. If you have a Will stored with a solicitor, pass them a note to keep with the Will of the whereabouts of the list so that your executors (the person or people appointed in your Will to look after your estate) are aware of its existence.
Be aware though that some terms and conditions do not allow you to share usernames and passwords and/or will not allow executors to access accounts, so you need to check. Your executors should take advice about this after your death as logging in to someone else’s accounts or computer can be a criminal offence.
2. Be aware that on-line accounts vary widely in how they are treated after the user’s death – some may be frozen after they have been inactive for a while. Have a look at the terms and conditions and see how they operate, contact the providers if you need further information.
3. Did you know that some loyalty schemes that you may run on-line allow you to pass on points or money earnt after your death? For example, Nectar, Paypal, Tesco Clubcard and Boots Advantage Card. However, there is no uniformity to the evidence they require so, again, make a note so that your executors can trace these.
4. Do you really own on-line what you think you do? Often, digital assets are licensed to you and not yours to pass on after your death. Consider downloading copies of key documents and assets so that these are readily accessible. Films, music and e-books can be downloaded and passed on after death but otherwise they cannot be transferred on your death.
5. Think about what on-line items you have that are of sentimental value that might be lost or destroyed after your death and who you might want to have access to them. As it’s so quick to take digital pictures and recordings, you may have thousands of photos of your children or pets – go through them and print the best or create a photo book. Your family will thank you for keeping these memories easily available to them.
6. On the flip side of the coin, some photos, videos and emails you have you might not want your family or friends to see. Take the time to “declutter”, deleting items that might cause distress. Do not leave this to your executors to deal with; they may not be able to destroy things in time or at all depending on whether the items are worth anything.
7. If you have Facebook or other social media accounts, do you want your page kept open after your death as a memorial to you? Make sure you leave written instructions to your executors.
8. Discuss with your legal advisor about who you want to pass your digital assets and information to after your death and they can help you ensure this is covered in your Will. It is very important too, if you have an on-line business or run any part of your business on-line, to ensure you consider how this would be dealt with after your death or in the event of your incapacity with your advisor.